The two Reporters Without Borders Assistance Desks, based in Paris and Berlin, have the job of coordinating the administrative, material and financial help that Reporters Without Borders provides to journalists and media in distress.
The two Assistance Desks allocated a total of 163 assistance grants in 2011 with a combined value of more than €175,000. The purpose of the grants was to help journalists, their families or media in difficulty.
Geographic origin of journalists helped 32% of the grants went to African journalists. As a result of the massive flight of journalists from the Horn of Africa, Reporters Without Borders helped many exiled Somali, Eritrean and Ethiopian journalists. It also helped journalists from Sudan and Rwanda. In the course of 2011, Reporters Without Borders wrote more than 70 letters supporting applications by African journalists for visas or international protection (out of a total of 223 support letters written in 2011).
The large percentage of assistance grants for Iranian journalists (22%) was for similar reasons. Almost 200 Iranian journalist have fled abroad to escape Iran’s oppressive regime since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection in June 2009. They include dozens who have fled in recent months, since the authorities began tightening their grip even more ahead of the March 2012 parliamentary elections. Reporters Without Borders is extremely worried by the approach of the next presidential election in June 2013 as the regime will probably continue to gag and sideline dissidents. A total of 84 letters supporting Iranian journalists were sent to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and to government officials or agencies responsible for examining asylum requests in France, Germany, other European countries, the United States and Canada.
This chart shows the breakdown of aid granted in 2011 by geographic origin of recipients:
Breakdown of aid by geographic origin of recipients
Kinds of problem experienced by journalists
As well as enabling journalists who have fled persecution to cover their immediate basic needs while in transit countries, where they are often without resources on their arrival (39% of cases), the Reporters Without Borders assistance grants also enable unjustly prosecuted journalists to pay legal fees (11%). The grants may also be used to offset a family’s loss of income resulting from a journalist’s imprisonment, hospitalization or death. A total of 12% of grants were paid to families in such circumstances, while 7% were used to pay the medical bills of journalists who were injured or needed treatment as a result of their work.
This chart shows the breakdown of financial aid by the purpose for which it was intended:
Breakdown of grants by purpose
In 2011, 14% of recipients of Reporters Without Borders financial support were journalists who had been threatened in connection with their work. The assistance allowed them to move to a safer location within their country or, when required by the seriousness of the threats, to leave for a neighbouring country or for Europe. They included journalists from eastern Africa, Russia, Azerbaijan, Colombia and El Salvador. Reporters Without Borders helped several of them with asylum requests.
Independent media and organisations More than a fifth of the aid was allocated to independent news media or organisations that defend freedom of information. One of the grants went to the Free Burma VJ campaign which Democratic Voice of Burma launched in May 2011 to press for the release of 17 of its video-journalists, who were detained in Burma. The campaign was a success, and DVB confirmed on 13 January 2012 that all of its employees had been released under an amnesty.
In 2011, Reporters Without Borders also provided four independent Belarusian newspapers with financial assistance, which enabled them to continue operating despite financial pressure by the government.
The following chart shows the breakdown of grants by the kind of recipient:
Breakdown of grants by kind of recipient
The attached two charts show the breakdown of the Reporters Without Borders support letters by the geographic origin of the journalist supported and by the category of the official to whom the letters were sent.
This action was notably made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary